Jersey Boys Returns!
- By Ken Werther
- Photos By Paige Petrone
In the fall of 2004 I drove down to the La Jolla Playhouse to see a new musical that was making quite a splash. I was working in the press office at the Ahmanson Theatre and when I returned I told my bosses they needed to get their hands on the show before it headed for Broadway. That didn’t happen, but I remember thinking Jersey Boys was going to be a huge hit in New York and would return to the West Coast — probably sooner than later. On June 4, 2007, the first National Tour of Jersey Boys opened at the Ahmanson and I was still working in the press office. The show ran through early September and I fondly recall that summer as one of the happiest times of my career.
A little history — in the early 2000s Bob Gaudio, an original member of The Four Seasons, sought to make a musical from the discography of the legendary rock ‘n roll band. Director Des McAnuff (then-artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse) was hired along with book writers Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman. Instead of repurposing the Four Seasons songs for an independent story (the way Abba did with Mamma Mia!) Brickman suggested creating a show about the band’s history. He has said that he was drawn to the project because, “It’s a classic American story. It’s rags to riches, and back to rags.”
Prior to the premiere of the stage musical, little was known to the public about the group’s history. During their initial research for the show, writers Brickman and Elice were surprised to discover that some of the band members had prison records. Says Gaudio, “Back then, things were a little clean-cut … so the idea of our story getting out was horrifying to us.” Other bands of that era projected street-tough images, but The Four Seasons cleaned themselves up in order to attract mainstream listeners.
Jersey Boys had its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse on October 5, 2004 and after several extensions closed on January 16, 2005. David Noroña, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer played The Four Seasons. At the end of the run, Noroña, who had originated the role of Frankie Valli, was replaced by John Lloyd Young who went on to win the 2006 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical (the show won a total of four, including Best Musical).
Directed by McAnuff with choreography by Sergio Trujillo, the show began previews on Broadway on October 4, 2005 and officially opened on November 6. The cast featured John Lloyd Young along with Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer all reprising their roles. The Broadway production closed on January 15 of this year after playing 4,642 performances. The show has had two North American National Tours, productions in London’s West End, Las Vegas, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne, Singapore, South Africa, the Netherlands, and many more. It has now played pretty much all over the world, and this month Jersey Boys is returning to the Ahmanson Theatre. I’ve seen it many (many!) times and I have never tired of it. If you need me, come downtown to the Ahmanson box office. I’ll be standing in line to get tickets!
Center Theatre Group is having a busy spring. Things are hopping at the Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre! At the Taper, Archduke is an astonishing world premiere play from Pulitzer Prize finalist and Obie Award–winner Rajiv Joseph that poetically traces a group of young men along their unlikely path to terrorism at the onset of World War I. At the KDT in Culver City, the new Block Party program celebrates the vibrant theatre of our city by featuring three recent productions from local theatre companies, highlighting some of the best work our town has to offer. Following the inaugural production of Coeurage Theatre Company’s Failure: A Love Story (April 14–23), up next is the Fountain Theatre production of Citizen: An American Lyric (April 28–May 7), and finally the Echo Theater Company production of Dry Land (May 14–21). Anyone that says LA is not a theatre town is seriously not paying attention!
For all things happening at Center Theatre Group, click here.